Friday, May 30, 2008

Encore: Michelle Moran - Walk Like an Egyptian

UPDATE: Nefertiti is now available in paperback!

Buy it at for only $10.17! The entire great story at a bargain price.

Michelle Moran had a vision of a Queen of the Nile. No, not the notorius Cleopatra, but the more mysterious Nefertiti. Was she a Pharaoh? What was she like? There’s a lot that the average person doesn’t know about her. Michelle has done all the work for we curious, yet lazy, folk. She has painted a portrait of a lady hidden in the mists of time for the rest of us to enjoy.

Michelle was always a history buff, focusing on the great English writers from Chaucer to Milton. She had a chance to go on an archeological dig and turned into a history maven. From her travels (she’s been everywhere) to her research, she homed in on Nefertiti. She spent four years researching and writing the novel and it just came out on July 10th. It’s already very successful, beyond the wildest dreams of most of us writers.

Since I’ve been a follower of Michelle’s History Buff blog, I’d thought about bothering her for an interview. With the release of NEFERTITI it seemed the perfect time.

Please visit Michelle’s website for a host of background information about the Egypt described in her novel. She has lots of interesting facts, including a really fun interactive family tree.

In addition, Michelle hosts the blogs History Buff and History Buff Interviews.

And, of course, Nefertiti: A Novel is available wherever fine books are sold. Try Amazon if you like to order on-line, but I'm sure the book will also be showing up in your local bookstore.

Now on to the interview.

Marva: Michelle, thanks for taking the time to answer some burning questions about your new novel, “Nefertiti: A Novel.”

I noticed some recent documentaries on Egyptology on the History Channel and on Discovery. Strangely, much of this news circles around Nefertiti and her husband, Akhenaten. Did you have any idea the release of your book would coincide with these new discoveries?

Michelle: The timing was certainly fortuitous, with the identification of Hatshepsut’s mummy taking place just a few days before the release. Another story that has been bubbling away concerns the very bust of Nefertiti that had first sparked my interest in her story. It has been on display in Berlin for decades, but recently there has been pressure from the Egyptian government for its return, creating a diplomatic war of words. So certainly I feel that timing helps. But on the other hand, there remains a great deal left that we are always discovering about Egypt, and so much that is timeless about its appeal. Ultimately, people respond to the story, and to a period in history that enthralls us.

Marva: The bust of Nefertiti is one of the most recognizable artifacts from ancient Egypt. What drew you to write about this famous, yet mysterious, queen of Egypt?

Michelle: My travels to archaeological sites around the world have been enormously influential in my writing career. In fact, my inspiration to write on Nefertiti happened while I was on an archaeological trip. During my sophomore year in college, I found myself sitting in Anthropology 101, and when the professor mentioned that she was looking for volunteers who would like to join a dig in Israel, I was one of the first students to sign up. When I got to Israel, however, all of my archaeological dreams were dashed (probably because they centered around Indiana Jones). There were no fedora-wearing men, no cities carved into rock, and certainly no Ark of the Covenant. I was very disappointed. Not only would a fedora have seemed out of place, but I couldn’t even use the tiny brushes I had packed. Apparently, archaeology is more about digging big ditches with pickaxes rather than dusting off priceless artifacts, which were kept far from the clumsy hands of amateurs!

Volunteering on an archaeological dig was hot, it was sweaty, it was incredibly dirty, and when I look back on the experience through the rose-tinged glasses of retrospect, I think, Wow, it was fantastic! Especially when our team discovered an Egyptian scarab that proved the ancient Israelites had once traded with the Egyptians. Looking at that scarab in the dirt, I began to wonder who had owned it, and what had possessed them to undertake the long journey from their homeland to what would become Israel.

On my flight back to America I stopped, as I mentioned, in Berlin. With a newfound appreciation for Egyptology, I visited the Altes museum where Nefertiti’s limestone bust was being housed. The graceful curve of Nefertiti’s neck, her arched brows, and the faintest hint of a smile were captivating to me. Who was this woman with her self-possessed gaze and stunning features? I wanted to know more about Nefertiti’s story, but when I began the research into her life, it proved incredibly difficult. She’d been a woman who’d inspired powerful emotions when she lived over three thousand years ago, and those who had despised her had attempted to erase her name from history. Yet even in the face of such ancient vengeance, some clues remained. Those clues formed the structure of Nefertiti: A Novel.

Marva: Research. The biggest part of an historical writer’s time is spent simply researching. Tell us a little about your methods and sources. Then, how do you apply the research to your novel? And a chicken-egg question. What came first? The research or the plot?

Michelle: I begin by purchasing what feels like every book ever written on the subject I'm interested in. Sometimes that means our mail carrier will be delivering sixty books to my house in one week. It takes me several months to go through them, and when I feel like I have a pretty strong outline of my subject's life, I make a storyboard and begin to look for holes. Whatever holes I find, I try to patch with an event that is coherent with other facts, logic, and human nature, (three fairly constant guiding stars.) If I have doubts with a setting or a scene, I have friends in the archaeological world who can advise me on whether or not something I want to include is realistic.

Which means that all of the major events and characters in NEFERTITI are based on fact. Even the description of Nefertiti’s palace and the images she had painted beneath her throne are historically accurate. Archaeologists today are extremely lucky that so much of Nefertiti’s life is well-preserved. But it wasn’t always this way. After Nefertiti’s reign, her enemies tried to destroy her memory by demolishing her city. The historical character of Horemheb, in particular, wanted to be sure that nothing of hers remained, so he broke her images down piece by piece and used them as rubble to fill the columns of his own buildings. Fast forward three thousand years, however, and as Horemheb’s columns began to deteriorate, what was found hidden inside were the perfectly preserved shards of Nefertiti’s image and life story. The irony! I think that this is the core of what we trust in as writers- that the essence of our subjects’ lives will come tumbling out through our stories, if we only chip away at the right spot…

Marva: Nefertiti is your first novel. It’s getting a great reception for a debut novel. What was the process from finished manuscript to publishing?

Michelle: I am represented by the wonderful agent Anna Ghosh at Scovil Chichak Galen, and she took on the task of submitting the novel that a previous agent had suggested I write. But my heart hadn’t been in the book. It was set in the 20th century, and my specialty – what I studied in college and what I’ve since become an amateur historian on – is ancient Egypt and the Middle Ages. We had quite a few near-misses with the novel, where editors wanted to purchase the book but were turned down by the acquisitions team, (since all sales have to be approved by committee.) After Anna had completed the rounds of all the major publishing houses, I began to panic that I’d been dropped as a client. That is when I started Nefertiti, a project I was extremely passionate about. Anna waited patiently for two years while I worked, and eventually went on to sell the novel and its sequel for six figures to Crown. After that, her foreign-rights colleague Danny Baror sold Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen to more than fifteen countries.

I do believe there is a moral to this story, which is to be persistent and not to be afraid of starting a new project. Much as Thomas Edison famously found 1,000 ways to not build a light bulb, I have thirteen books that I’ve written thus far- and just because they’re not published doesn’t mean I didn’t learn from them, or that the stories aren’t worth telling. It’s even possible, though unlikely, that with some reworking I may publish one or more in the future. I think what aspiring writers need to understand is that if something isn’t right for the current market, that doesn’t mean they should simply give up. With each book you’ll get better as a writer, and eventually you will strike gold!

Marva: What are the important points of Nefertiti’s life? What made her worthy of historical study, aside from that fabulous face?

Michelle: As a young girl Nefertiti had married a Pharaoh who was determined to erase the entire Egyptian pantheon and replace it with a single sun-god he called Aten. It seemed that Nefertiti’s family allowed her to marry this impetuous king in the hopes that she would tame his wild ambitions. Yet far from showing restraint, the royal couple pushed Egypt’s fragile peace to the breaking point, as Nefertiti joined him in building his own capital of Amarna from where they ruled as god and goddess. The powerful Nefertiti did have a sister who tried to keep her grounded, and in an image of her found in Amarna, the sister is depicted standing off to one side, her arms downcast while everyone else enthusiastically praises the royal couple. That image served as the kernel for the novel’s narrative. The story, (as told by this skeptical yet kind sister Mutny) is about not only the historic clashes that swirl around the kingdom, but also Mutny’s own struggles for normality and love in the shadow of a demanding Queen’s constant crises.

Marva: I’d like to know something obscure that you discovered in your research about her. What about Nefertiti excites your imagination the most?

Michelle: Perhaps Nefertiti’s style, the individualism that still set her apart even millennia later. This ranged from her radical approach to politics and religion, down even to the seemingly trivial fact that she had double ear-piercings at a time when no-one else apparently though to do the same. Then, as now, this “uniqueness” soon had its imitators! Nefertiti’s daughter, for instance, developed her own perfume line. It probably would have been similar to the fragrance found in King Tut’s tomb, which was made with:

One quarter cup coconut oil
6 drops of essential oil of spikenard
6 drops of essential oil of frankincense

So look for those ingredients in the spikenard aisle of your local grocery store!

Marva: I always like to end an interview with an open invitation for the interviewee to fill us in on anything she’d like. Go for it.

Michelle: Well, I have an open question of my own. I’d love to see her story adapted to the big screen, but who (amongst actors you’ve heard of!) would blog readers like to see playing the role of Nefertiti and the other leads?

Marva: Good question for my readers. I'll chime in with Angelina Jolie for Nefertiti. She's exotic enough for the role. As for the other leads? Catherine Zeta Jones for Mutny. With these women, who cares who plays the men?

Thanks, Michelle, for giving us the low-down on Nefertiti. I look forward to reading it and writing a review when my copy arrives.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

First Duty - Scifi for June Publication

Sam's Dot Publishing is a good friend of mine.

Well, Tyree, the managing editor must be in any case.I sent Tyree "First Duty" a science fiction novella yea these many moons ago. It's finally on the front burner and scheduled for a June release. I would LOVE to show the rough cover art for the book, but I'll hold off until Tyree tells me it's a done deal.In any case, here's the book's backcover blurb:

Nyra Hutchings, a woman born into a life of servitude on a repressive factory planet, is desperate for a different life. When she's accepted into the Space Service Academy, run by the organization that enslaves her planet, she discovers the truth behind generations of rebellion. Now, she must decide what to believe, where her first duty lies, and fight for more than her life.

I would like to give credit where it's due. I posted my original query letter and synopsis on my critique group's forum. A lovely young woman, who goes by EmeraldSky, wrote the above and I just couldn't find fault with it. Thanks, Em! You're a peach and write a hell of a query paragraph.

To add to the short form, "First Duty" is a pure scifi. No romance here, folks. I really don't think that the heroine needs to fall for some hunky space cadet. Nyra is her own woman. She has to make some tough decisions, but she's up to the challenge. I hope folks will enjoy the story.

Support the Troops, But a Ribbon Doesn't Cut It

My good friend, Bryan Catherman, is an Iraq war vet. He wrote an article then read it for an audio report on KUER radio (University of Utah). Please visit the KUER site and listen to his article. The following is only the introduction, not the article itself.

I'm passionate about issues effecting military veterans, especially veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

Over the past couple of days, congress has squabbled over fixing the outdated Montgomery GI Bill, a program to help soldiers get an ducation. Some of our Congressmen and women don't want to update the outdated program because soldiers may leave the military for better options.

I've also recently learn the hard way that the VA Home Loan program, designed to help soldiers purchase a home, has ratcheted down it's olicies such that it's more difficult for a Veteran to use a VA program than conventional or FHA home loan programs, the same programs on-veterans use to purchase homes. (The VA loan does not give oldiers any money, it's only a guarantee from the US Government overing a portion of the loan should the veteran default.)

But the issue I'm most passionate about is the funding, stigmatization, and making available of mental health programs for eturning veterans. I'm a veteran of the Iraq War and I've used these services. I believe this program saved my marriage, family, career, and even my life. I'd like to invite you to listen to a personal essay about my observations from within the VA mental health clinic.

KUER Radio Audio Article

If you'd like to learn more about how you can truly "support the troops," visit I belong to this organization and strongly believe in the work were doing. I hope my recorded essay has encourages you to do more than simply say you "support the troops."

Brave Rifles!

Bryan Catherman

Iraq War Veteran

Addendum: Bryan posted a comment:

Some of my friends and family have asked what they can do to help our Vets. There are a number of things we can do.

1. Learn more about and join the IAVA as a supporter. (An Internet search for "IAVA" will take you there. I'd love to post a link by it probably won't make it through the spam filter.) You will receive occasional e-mails outlining different ways you can take action and support our Veterans. The IAVA is a non-partisan, non-profit organization committed to our Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans.

2. You can make a donation to the IAVA; big or small it all helps. Or purchase a copy of CHASING GHOSTS by Paul Rieckhoff because a portion of each sale goes to the IAVA. Buy it on the website and you can get it signed by the author.)

3. Learn more about the documentary, "Reserved to Fight" by Mirror Lake Films. I saw this film the day before I walked through the doors of the VA. This movie follows 4 veterans for 5 years and I firmly believe going to the screening saved my life. (I will so be holding a screening at my home, so if you're in the Salt Lake area, look me up.) "Reserved to Fight" will air on PBS in November but you can pre-order your copy now. The soundtrack is awesome too!

4. Take it one step further and donate to Mirror Lake Film's Voice for Veterans Outreach Program, an effort to get help for Iraq and Afghanistan Vets. They're also trying to share their documentary at colleges and universities across the nation.

5. Call, E-mail, or write a letter to your Senators and Representative expressing that you'd like to see them care for our vets by increasing funding for VA Mental Health, passing the New GI Bill, and supporting our troops in meaningful ways, ways that are more than just lip service.

6. Chat with Combat Veterans, this war or any war. Ask them about their service. Look for ways to help them. Listen to them. You might not be able to completely understand, but you can still listen.

7. Vote.

8. Pray for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Discount Code

Just because you've read this blog, you can get a $1.00 discount off "Tales of a Texas Boy" trade paper back edition.

Here's the code to enter for the discount: 95NPA44K

Here's the link to apply that discount to the purchase.

Let me know if you try to use the discount code and it doesn't work as advertised. This price will get you Tales for $9.95.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

April Isn't the Cruelest Month

Well, not in terms of my book sales. I had a nice pop up on Amazon sales for the Large Print Edition of "Tales of a Texas Boy." I don't know why, except I have a suspicion that a certain 'SarahJen', who bought a copy from me a couple of weeks ago, has coerced her friends and family into buying their own copies.

Now, I'll press the point that if you have any kind of connection of Texas or you liked "Huckleberry Finn," then I suspect you really would like "Tales."

Okay, I'm only comparing "Tales" to "Huckleberry Finn" in that it's a first person narrative of a pre-teen boy, written in a Southern dialect. I obviously don't have the themes and great writing of Mark Twain, but if you liked Huck, you'd probably like little Eddie, too.

Buy at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or directly from me.

If you don't have those links by now, then I guess you never will.

Have a great May!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

IAG Featured Writer: Celia Hayes

Celia Hayes is author of "To Truckee's Trail." She lives in San Antonio, Texas and likes to write about the Southwest. Here is part of a review of "To Truckee's Trail" I wrote in an earlier post:To Truckee's Trail, by Celia Hayes is a partially fictional account of pioneers making a journey by wagon train across the western American plains and mountains in search of a better life. Drawing on the journal of an energetic and multi-talented doctor and from interviews with some of the participants done in later years, Ms. Hayes paints a portrait of the extremely difficult struggles pioneers of the early 1800's experienced.

I recommend To Truckee's Trail because it is entertaining and educational. A fine work and a worthy read. The book is available at and other booksellers. Celia's website is found at

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Story in May Issue of Sorcerous Signals

"The Cursed Valley," a gripping tale of murder and revenge, is available for reading and your vote in the current issue of Sorcerous Signals.

Illustrated by Marge Simon and written by lil ol' me.

First paragraph:

The guards brought Vendevor the Wizard into the castle's main hall, converted to a temporary courtroom for the trial. Vendevor, stripped of his bag of magic herbs, cowered under the glare of Tain, the centaur Lord of the Valley. Tain wanted to show mercy, but the wizard's crime was too horrible. The wizard had poisoned the lake, killing three of the resident merfolk. It was murder, plain and simple, and Tain had to pass judgment.